Tag Archives: digital teaching and learning

Digital Media Literacy Opportunities Galore!

[Note: This post was originally featured on the Media Education Lab]

 The Consequences of Attending the URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

I peered across the dim expanse of the art space, AS220 as I participated in “speed dating.” In a whirlwind I met librarian, Brooke; media consultant, Jen; and English educator, Erica. We formed dyads, shared lots of laughter, and together experienced the first weeklong URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. Brooke and I collaborated on a Storify called “Upstanders, Arise!” that helped students to advocate against bullying, and I later incorporated the composition into a Sports and Popular Culture curriculum unit I had designed in my position as a secondary English teacher.

Could that fabulous Summer Institute really have happened five years ago? Padlet, Socratic, Kahoot!, Edmondo, and Animoto were the Cool Tools that year, but curricular cohesion and literacy learning were just beginning to merge with digital education then. So it was in that latter direction I ran, and so many proverbial doors opened for me as a result of the conceptual framework I obtained from participating in the 2013 Summer Institute in Digital Literacy.

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Revisiting Media Literacy through a Digital Lens

I admit it, readily and happily:  I’ve been an advocate of media literacy instruction since the late 1990s, when I came face-to-face with students who just didn’t want to read the required Western canon.  Students would locate and share copies of Spark Notes and, without blinking, recite plot points and character distinctions.  Yet, when I pulled out magazines and asked students to identify images that had parallel themes to A Separate Peace or Flowers for Algernon, they were hooked and genuinely engaged in learning.

I knew I was onto something significant with media literacy.

Now, two decades later, I’m ready to end full-time public school teaching.  With closure comes insight into the progress we have made toward infusing media literacy and popular culture as part of what Giroux calls “serious academic discourse” (1989).  I’m also keenly aware that challenges continue to exist and daunt the most insightful and progressive media educators, even with the seeming ubiquity of digital tools and resources.

Looking Back at Two Decades of Media Literacy in the Classroom

mind over media tvMuch of my grounding in media literacy (and, later, digital culture) was framed by Dr. Renee Hobbs of the Media Education Lab.  Through Renee’s influence, I came to understand media literacy analysis from the early Know TV Curriculum; then it was onto analyzing advertisements, copyright and fair use, news bias, one-minute teen films, and, most recently,  propaganda through Mind over Media which curates a majority of its collection from users.  My students contributed, linked, and critiqued ads surrounding Dove Soap and parallel ads pointing to the destruction of South Asian rain forests, among others.

I also learned about the National Alliance for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) and their analysis categories of author and audience, representations and reality, and meanings and messages.  That framework jump-started me and helped me to create my own deconstruction model for students, called the Visual Analysis Protocol. Regardless of the course I teach — which can range from Children’s Literature, Sports and Popular Culture, Masculinity and Sport, The Art of Film, Conspiracy Theory, or American Literature — my students have the requirement to analyze media texts incorporating a social justice lens and then to compose their own media texts.

The importance of original composing can’t be overlooked:  students assume critical distance from texts and persuasion when, instead of consuming, they produce.  The shift to production requires them to design within commonly accepted conventions of a genre and with clear language expression.  This is tough work for any age group, but it’s essential for teens, whose identity experiences have been formed through constant media influences. Media composition also helps students to recognize the narratives employed in mainstream media texts, alongside their associative values, as a necessary step in questioning the dominant culture.

Add in “Digital” to Media Literacy Education, and What Happens in the Classroom?

As my years of teaching continued, an evolution toward 1-to-1 technology devices was slowly occurring.  I was eager to move from familiar print text and paper-and-pencil literacy practices to on-demand online inquiry and digital multimodal text sets.

evolution of digital engagement

Digital applications have changed my pedagogy and the way that students engage with texts. I am both a teacher and digital media literacy curriculum designer, and in both roles I have reminded myself to be conscious of several pedagogical components of digital media literacy education. It is important:

  • to engage students in media literacy learning in ways that foster their currency in companion digital skills and strategies;
  • to develop instructional experiences that connect youths’ in-school and out-of-school literacy and learning;
  • to offer inquiry into topics that arouse youth passions so to guide them as they become more deeply literate;
  • to balance opportunities for analysis with original composition so that critical examination is lessens negativity and reductionism;
  • and, to think of media literacy as a socially inclusive approach which calls upon civic participation and lifelong learning.

Tying It All Together in a Common Language of Digital Media Literacy

At the spring, 2016 conference sponsored by the Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME), co-president Julia Freschette outlined how digital distribution adds to consumer-generated content in a change to the entire digital landscape.  She argued that the end goal now of digital media education is to understand the means through which communication is created, deployed, used, and shared. Sacred Heart University’s Director of the Master’s Degree Program in Media Literacy and Digital Culture, Bill Yousman, extended that discussion to reinforce how, even in a digital age, critical media literacy continues to deal with issues of power, and such power arises when media messages benefit dominant social groups at the cost of underrepresented groups.

Source: ACME

ACME co-president Rob Williams outlined a series of ways that a critical digital media classroom can also help students to identify how the social media environment fosters skills that apply to the real world. Yes, social media offers teens the opportunities to create and curate their own identities.  But, with teens’ average 7 hours, 40 minutes per day of total media submersion — not including multimedia tasking— teens can also use social media for larger purposes.  Williams suggested that educators help students to gain language to discuss what they are doing on/ with social media, which can leverage them to gain the power of the network with their particular set of skill strategies.

In a conference session titled “Global Media Literacy Education:  Teaching Beyond Borders,” by Belinda De Abreau and Melda N. Yildiz, critical digital media literacy goals pointed to “global competence,” or the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. To gain global competence, we can recognize cultural nuances among people around us as a beginning place to examine mediated environments and topics from culturally different points of view. A companion classroom activity compares newspaper representations of specific topics through a site like NewspaperMap and ask why different interpretations of the same text occur culturally.

Censored2016_COVER_1024x1024Project Censored director Mickey Huff described some of that organization’s earliest instructional activities, in which students identified the stories were being covered by independent news organizations but not being disseminated by the mainstream media.  They asked, “Why is there such a discrepancy?” Today, Project Censored also teaches students about logical fallacies through news headlines, and they play “Déjà Vu” when news outlets do pick up and report a previously absent story.  Huff and co-author Andy Lee Roth recently published the book Censored 2016, which captures the top censored stories and media analysis of 2014-2015. Huff stated that, until we have a news system that is diverse, we need to engage in such critical media analysis.

Sut Jhally, Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts and founder and Executive Director of the Media Education Foundation, was absolutely mesmerizing as the culminating keynote speaker at the ACME conference!  He revisited Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death introduction and argued that both Orwell and Huxley were right: fear and pleasure are driving our current worlds.  Jhally suggested that we read not McLuhan but McLuhan’s mentor, Henry Innis, who describes the essential influences of empire on society. Jhally also spoke of New York Times‘ Chris Hedges, who has a new book, Empire of Illusion. In it, Hedges discusses “the triviality of American popular culture… the mindlessness that makes the magic….”  I’ve added lots of material to my summer reading list as a result of hearing Jhally speak.

Carolyn at ACME delivering presentationAnd, in my own presentation, Reaching Magazines that Reach Us, I argued that media images of athletes of color reproduce generational stereotypes, and, through digital media analysis, we can help students to transcend such embedded messaging. Anytime we reproduce images from a former generation for a new generation, we expose youth to another framework with which to know their worlds.  If we are to assist our students become active advocates for equity in the world, we must, instead,  empower them to speak as systemic reformers. Digital media literacy can offer students the skills and structures to organize and act on a larger scale in order to change laws, policy, and larger social conditions. With digital media literacy analysis, they can, in turn, educate each other about racism. Through digital media literacy, we can help students to gain tools to transform institutions for justice for all.  Advocating for equitable images is one way.   

Barriers to Full Access to Digital Media Literacy Education in the U.S.

Of course, there are many issues when considering full implementation of digital media literacy programs in U.S. schools and other U.S. cultural sites.  A tendency seems to exist in many professional development programs to emphasize digital tools without focusing on the more important learning application of those tools. Moreover, instructors who lack the technology expertise cannot fully utilize the potential of digital media education, and, additionally, teachers can feel compelled to choose preparation for high-stakes testing over digital media production projects.

internet connectivity graphIn June 2013, President Obama announced his ConnectED initiative, which aimed to equip practically every school in the country with a high-speed broadband connection by 2018. We often speak about ubiquitous digital access, but it is important to remember that not all individuals, schools, or cultural institutions have the capacity to offer free wireless or to supply personal technology devices to their constituents, especially in an on-needed basis. Indeed, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the affluent and educated are still the most likely to have good access to digital resources.

And, finally, we have to remember that the U.S. is one of the very few Western countries that does not mandate media literacy education in its public schools.  Canada has media literacy requirements for their K-12 students. Countries like Sweden, Finland, South Africa, and the U.K. have some form of media literacy education for primary and secondary students. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of all European students receive some media literacy training by the time they graduate high school. If we want to teach our youth to be informed citizens in a democracy, the U.S. needs to reconsider its blatant disregard for the place and importance of digital media literacy instruction and to implement curricular standards that require students to analyze and interpret the vast amount of information that we all encounter every day.

An informed citizenry may depend on it.

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading.  She has a twenty year background in public school teaching, and she is a part-time faculty member in the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at Rhode Island College. If you’d like information about workshops in digital and media literacy and learning, contact Carolyn at c4tuna31@gmail.com.

Resources

Freire, P. and Giroux, H.  (1989).  Pedagogy, popular culture, and public life:  An introduction.  In Popular culture:  Schooling and everyday life. Eds. H. Giroux and R. Simon.  New York, NY.  Bergin & Garvey Publishers, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

Harvard University: An Opportunity for a Digital Media Literacy Lesson

Massachusetts Hall at Harvard Yard

Massachusetts Hall at Harvard Yard

As a December recess getaway, I spent a long weekend in a Harvard University neighborhood. I walked beside Victorian townhouses and through the campus maze. The raw and misty weather didn’t stop crowds on historical tours of the Yard, as dozens gathered around buildings like Massachusetts Hall and listened to the narratives of years gone by.  But the tour that I envisioned in my head was not historic but, rather, based on critical digital media literacy.  In no particular order, here’s what my Harvard University digital media literacy tour might look like.

Matthews Hall at Harvard Yard

Matthews Hall at Harvard Yard

Buildings in Harvard Yard have ornate cornices, austere lines, or even modern facades. I kept asking myself, What social and cultural forces have influenced changes in architecture since 1636, when Harvard was founded? How did the introduction of new materials and mass production change the way that buildings have been designed?  What effect will natural resource depletion have on architecture in the next two decades? What do we, as consumers, need to know about the sources of the materials we buy for our own home projects? How will a greater understanding of our own consumption contribute to a more sustainable planet?

Roses in bloom outside the Harvard University Museum

Roses in bloom outside the Harvard University Museum

As a self-trained gardener, I’m always studying the ways that plants adapt to our four season New England climate.  I wondered, In what ways is it ironic that roses were blooming in December on the Harvard University campus? To what extent has New England climate change affected botanical cycles of dormancy and bloom?  What research studies are underway at Harvard University to help scientists and citizens to understand and confront the quickly changing climate? I recognized that the effects of climate fluctuations and consequences can be a first step to adapting our own interactions with the natural world.

Thayer Hall accessibility sign at Harvard University

Thayer Hall accessibility sign at Harvard University

At one time in my life, I was a community access monitor, so I noticed universal accessibility signs as I walked on the Harvard campus.  What is it like to be a person who uses a wheelchair at Harvard University?  What types of architectural adaptations have been made to Harvard’s historic buildings so that persons with disabilities are given freedom of access?  What barriers remain to persons in our U.S. society who seek higher education and associated residential housing? Moreover, how can we all, in our local communities, ensure that all citizens with disabilities have access to as many public and private structures as possible so they can richly participate in community culture?

Plaque commemorating education of indigenous peoples at Harvard University

Plaque commemorating education of indigenous peoples at Harvard University

Several years ago, my local book group read Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing and even heard the author speak at the Read across Rhode Island May breakfast.  So, of course, as I meandered through Harvard Year, I was delighted to come across a plaque commemorating John Sassamon, who became the first known Native American to study at Harvard. Today, the purpose of Harvard University’s Native American Program is to advance the well-being of indigenous peoples. I wondered, What barriers do Native American and Alaskan Native students face in higher education? How are these barriers to student success being addressed theoretically and practically  at Harvard and at other renowned sites of higher level education in the United States?

Of course, questions about cultural literacy aren’t new to Harvard University.  In 1993, Harvard hosted a Media Literacy Teaching Institute that drew nearly a hundred interested instructors, scholars, and journalists.  It is also telling, however, that funding cuts later discontinued the Institute.  The host, Dr. Renee Hobbs, continues inquiry into education that prompts today’s students to think critically about what they see, read, and watch at the Media Education Lab. Perhaps Harvard’s current work at Youth and Media Lab at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society  will continue the power and promise of cyberspace research through a study of its own Harvard Yard, which is a site that offers myriad possibilities for critical connections through digital and media inquiry.

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading.  She teaches English Language Arts at a New England public high school and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College. If you’d like information about workshops in digital and media literacy and learning, contact Carolyn at c4tuna31@gmail.com.

Ways that Digital Tools Can Help Students to Read Their Worlds

Sometimes called “affordances,” the digital world offers advantages to students.  Teachers’ repertoires today likely include Twitter, Glogster, Kahoot, Prezi, a comic creator, Ted Talks, LiveBinders, podcasts, Animoto, Quizlet, a class wiki, white board illustrating, screencasting, and blog posting. These and other platforms infuse ways for students to become better readers of their worlds through nuanced textual interactions, inquiry, analytical thinking, and composing.

Textual Interactions 

Source: Wikipedia

Online tools transform students into text detectives who have fun while hunting for clues.  Start with quickly paced e-learning modules that point to key evidence; primary sources offer a wealth of possibilities. A Civil War era journal entry, sheet music from the Roaring 20’s, an eggless-butterless-milkless World War II cake recipe, or civil rights protest photo can spur conversations and engagement— and each can be accessed digitally.  Alternatively, daily digital newspapers and blogs allow students to explore local and global perspectives, and e-readers and audiobooks bring professional narration to  combined reading/ listening experiences.  It’s fascinating how digital book chats, Amazon student book reviews, or one book/ one school programs can foster a school community through common literary experiences.

Student Inquiry 

Source: Greg McVerry

E-learning centers immerse students in appropriately challenging investigations.  Online design tasks might include image-based visualizations that spur language acquisition.  Vocabulary games, multi-level/ tiered questioning, close reading wikis, or online discussion boards introduce new concepts.  Moreover, social justice simulations can unveil lives that have been affected by race, class, language, gender, or religious difference.  Further, a curation tool like Storify can help students to develop critical perspectives and to become more curious about others who don’t fit their own community’s definition of “Normal.”

Analytical Thinking 

Source: NASA

Do science/ English collaborations seem a bit avant-garde? Scientific texts can fulfill various English and literature standards through readings available at National Geographic, NOAA, NSF, NASA,  Sierra Club, and Nature Conservancy websites. Follow up with a computer lab gallery walk, cartoon slideshow, Ted Talk about study skills, sports podcast to spur argumentation, or celebrity media evaluation.  Add in online guided questions, dictionaries, and translation tools to help struggling readers. Visual texts are important in our symbol-based society, so digital classic works of art, stylized comics, minimalist advertisements, and short films can be “read” as balanced, integrated elements.

Composing  

Source: The Abundant Artist

Infuse background and context into writing-to-learn activities then let students blog!  Because blogging is a reflection of identity, student bloggers gain insights into the human side of composing; they discern the complex interplay of words and ideas for an audience, making sense through print, sound, images, and videos.  Digital photography can also bring personalization and purpose to the writing process.  And don’t forget how fan fiction creates an outlet for imaginative mediation of the demands of audience and genre.

Ultimately, it is the richness of the digital world that resonates with students, for, as W. Somerset Maugham said, “The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.”

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading.  She teaches high school English and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College. If you’d like information about workshops in digital and media literacy and learning, contact Carolyn at c4tuna31@gmail.com.

The Digital Writing Process

One of my earliest and richest professional development activities was with the National Writing Project.  As a newly certified English teacher, the NWP’s process approach to writing seemed a whirlwind:  how could I help my students to see the possibilities within all the stages of pre-writing, organizing, drafting, and revision?  Slowly, I came to understand the process approach to writing and became a particular fan of Donald Murray, who made visible the struggles of writers and the joy of discovery through the written word.

Now, with nearly 20 years of middle and high school teaching behind me, I still respect the writing process approach and its benefits.  I also recognize that the nature of writing has changed tremendously over those two decades due to the significant influence of digital tools and sources.  Of course, today’s composers still must meet the commonly accepted conventions of the genre in which they are engaged, but our visual digital culture creates different demands than did the primarily print text-based world.

Digital environments mediate the navigation, length, and complexity of texts, requiring composers to adapt to audience, tone, and purpose in ways that previous generations were never required. Digital environments have disrupted the writing process as we once knew it due to an interwoven combination of traditional narrative sequencing, hyperlinks to other digital sources, infusions of multimedia texts like videos and podcasts, and interactive response fields.

A new Digital Writing Process SOARS!

Source: Carolyn Fortuna

Source: Carolyn Fortuna

  •  Survey: Have students surf the web and a large body of texts as a way of frontloading concepts and language. One way to ensure that students’ research meets your institution’s guidelines for social appropriateness and keen content connections is to curate a collection of digital models through which students can surf. (Here’s a sample curation from a sports and popular culture course I teach.)  A curation helps to illuminate what works among digital design, multimedia choices, and narrative structure.  And, so they learn to embed a pattern of attribution, it’s probably best for students to grab short phrases of direct excerpts from the sources they find, using quotation marks.  Otherwise, students might find themselves part of a plagiarism controversy.
  • Organize: Students need to sort through the chaos of all the fabulous texts and direct excerpts they’ve gathered from the web. Have students group their direct excerpts according to commonalities, and then have them narrow those commonalities into hierarchies. Students will also benefit from exposure to different methods to code evidence, such as color coordinating, charting, doing in-document keyword searches, or categorizing. Eventually, move students from an integration of patterns into a systematic, theoretically embedded explanation.
  • Address: One of the truly marvelous benefits of surfing the web is the capacity to see how other composers design their ideas and formats.  Commonly called conventions of the genre, these expected ways of adhering to a particular type of compositional style take a bit of scrutiny.  Have students analyze a variety of texts within a particular genre and identify certain predictable characteristics.  As students move into drafting their own compositions, they should practice different approaches to establishing mood and tone through deliberate word choices.  And, because their digital design should be visually appealing to appeal to a targeted audience, they should recognize and incorporate pointed design techniques, a clear message, and a professional look. 
  • Revise: Believe it or not, the revision stage of the digital writing process is the most time-consuming.  That’s because a first full draft of a composition, in all likelihood, lacks depth of ideas, language cohesion, and/or an interrelated design structure.  Moreover, when one aspect of the digital composition is changed, the other areas are immediately affected.  Guide students through a series of directed steps to consider how each part of the digital design process interacts with others.  Provide opportunities for 1-to-1 teacher: student conferencing, small group collaboration, and focus group feedback so that students have a balance of ample creative time and constructive responses.
  • Survey again:  Often, a full and revised draft of a composition still isn’t polished enough. That’s why the digital writing process requires composers to return to the web and to continue to survey mentor models of published digital compositions.  This final step is often lacking in classrooms, although new digital technologies and pedagogical tools have emerged to help teachers in the teaching of revision.  Students need to revisit the digital sources that originally inspired them, study them with a newly formed composer’s point of view, and decide what additional strategies they can adopt to infuse more nuance, voice, and authenticity to their own original compositions.

Many teachers now incorporate multimodal texts into their instruction as ways of making meaning. Because digital realms mediate content and meaning, curricula must also change to address new possible digital composing pathways.  Teachers in a PEW Research Center study report that their students have a broad audience for written material due to pervasive social media production opportunities. It’s time for teachers and cultural workers across disciplines to embrace a new Digital Writing Process as a necessary way to help guide our students to their highest levels of digital compositional excellence.

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading.  She teaches high school English and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College. If you’d like information for your school or non-profit organization about workshops in digital and media literacy and learning, contact Carolyn at c4tuna31@gmail.com.

URI Education Professors, Graduate Win Education Awards from International Literacy Association

Media Contact: Elizabeth Rau, 401-874-2116UR

KINGSTON, R.I. – Aug. 5, 2015 – Two University of Rhode Island education professors and a URI graduate have won international awards for their accomplishments in literacy.

The awards were given by the International Literary Association at its annual conference in St. Louis July 19.

“It’s a special honor for me to be recognized by my peers,’’ says Julie Coiro, a URI associate professor of education who won the Computers in Reading Research Award. “I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to the growing body of work on how to best support teachers and students learning how to read, write and think more deeply with new technologies.”

Coiro’s award honors reading researchers who have made a significant contribution to research about classroom literacy instruction and technology integration.

Coiro, of Quaker Hill, Conn., teaches courses in reading and digital literacy and is an expert in the field of new literacies, which seeks to understand and develop literacy in a digital age.

She has lectured from Taipei, Taiwan and Manitoba, Canada to Brisbane, Australia and Mendillon, Colombia about her research on the new literacies of the Internet, online reading comprehension and practices for technology integration and professional development.

She recently completed a five-year research project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to develop assessments to measure online reading comprehension to support classroom instruction.

Coiro also co-directs the Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy at URI, a graduate program that allows educators, librarians and media professionals to learn how to use digital media to create learning opportunities for students. Under her leadership, educators and media experts from throughout the world attended the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at URI’s Feinstein Providence Campus, also in July.

“It’s a thrill to get so many different types of educators revved up about literacy and learning with technology,’’ Coiro says. “Then you watch them go back to their districts and do incredible things.”

Coiro is co-editor of The Handbook of Research On New Literacies and has co-authored a book for classroom teachers, New Literacies for New Times: Teaching with the Internet K-12.

In 2011, she won the Early Career Achievement Award from the Literacy Research Association. The following year, she received URI’s Early Career Faculty Research Excellence Award in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.

And in 2014, she received an Elva Knight Research Award – with her colleague Carita Kiili of Jyväskylä, Finland – to study how to support high school students as they critically read and write online texts involving controversial issues.

Theresa A. Deeney received the Jerry Johns Outstanding Teacher Educator Award for outstanding college or university teacher of reading methods or reading-related courses.

Deeney, of South Kingstown, is an associate professor of literacy education at URI, coordinator of the graduate literacy program and director of graduate studies in the School of Education.

Her research focuses on pre- and in-service teacher education in literacy and assessment and instructional practices for students who struggle. Her work has appeared in The Reading Teacher, Journal of Special Education and Intervention in School and Clinic, Yearbook of the Literacy Research Association.

“Being recognized by my peers for my work in literacy teacher education is an honor,’’ she says, of her award. “I’m so grateful to all of the wonderful teachers I’ve had the pleasure to learn from over the years. They’re really the ones who deserve recognition.”

As part of her work, Deeney directs URI’s After School Literacy Program, a yearlong program run in conjunction with the Graduate Reading Program. Under her guidance, URI students have helped more than 90 children and adolescents in local schools with reading and language difficulties.

Deeney is author of Improving Literacy Instruction with Classroom Research. In 2007, she received the Outstanding Outreach Award from URI’s College of Human Science and Services for her work with urban teachers, and in 2015, the Outstanding Service Award. She also received the 2014 Constance McCullough Award from the International Literacy Association for professional development in Kenya as part of her work with the Africa Teacher Foundation. For this project, she helps teachers in some of the poorest areas of Kenya learn instructional techniques for developing their students’ literacy skills.

“I am thrilled that Terry Deeney and Julie Coiro have been recognized internationally for their excellence in research and instruction in literacy,’’ says Lori E. Ciccomascolo, interim dean of the College of Human Science and Services and dean of URI’s Feinstein College of Continuing Education. “They clearly have had an impact in their field, and I thank them for setting such a high standard for how literacy is taught and researched.”

Another award went to Carolyn Fortuna, of Glocester, who won the International Literacy Association’s 2015 grand prize Technology and Reading Award. The award honors educators in grades K-12 who are making outstanding and innovative contributions to the use of technology in reading education.

Fortuna is a 2010 graduate of the joint doctoral program in education at URI and Rhode Island College. She attended URI’s Summer Institute in Digital Literacy in 2013 and frequently participates in URI’s Media Education Lab research. She is the founder and director of IDigItMedia.com, which offers digital media literacy and learning professional development to schools and nonprofits.

She teaches high school English in Franklin, Mass., and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College.

Pictured above: Julie Coiro (top); Theresa Deeney (middle); and Carolyn Fortuna (bottom). Photos courtesy of URI.

Reprinted with permission of the University of Rhode Island.

Why isn’t there more digital media literacy research?

I took a recent trip to Toronto for the Sport and Society international conference.  Intrigued by “the cultural, political, and economic relationships of sport to society” that this knowledge community embraces, I was ready to dive headfirst into a world of sport analysis.

And I did.  I learned about Australia’s new National Policy on Match Fixing in Sport, 2011, which attempts to eliminate match fixing in three ways: a) Player rules must be clear; b) rules must be enforced; c) educational programs must be implemented; d) there must be mechanisms so officials can come forward Toomey, University of Canterbury, New Zealand). I heard how Brazil is attempting to help its citizens to become less sedentary through a program called “Agita,” in which, if people determine that there is an active health risk, and they become “indignant about other methods of treatment, they will accept physical exercise as a viable alternative” (Matsudo, plenary speaker).  There was research about how “being able to identify those with high athletic identity can help to prepare (health workers)… to recognize and/ or treat mental health issues” (Bouchanine, Houston Baptist University). Each of these was fascinating and informative.

There were presentations that included references to media representations and language use. I heard how NFL domestic violence incidents have come to be filtered through a “rhetoric of praise and blame,” in which organizations “glorify certain values and push away others,” leaving the victim as “instigator” (Schneider and Tinkleby, Morningside College, Sioux City, USA). I even was part of a session in which the topic was the determination by the Canadian sport industry— clearly a branch of the media—- “whether medicinal marijuana fits with respect to sport sponsorship” (Mansour, University of Ottawa).

But what I didn’t hear was an interrogation of sport through digital media literacy research.  Sure, several worthwhile presenters included references to media influence.  But  I believe I was the only researcher who deepened the stakes to suggest a research methodology that would help today’s generation of youth to take critical distance from sports media messages.

What is “critical distance?” Individuals demonstrate the capacity for critical distance from topics and issues when they show evidence of measured thought, digest multiple possible interpretations, and demonstrate reason around dominant discourse.  Digital media literacy can help students to gain the tools to unpack and make sense of ubiquitous sport media messages.  The “digital” aspect occurs when individuals Incorporate a combination of digital composing (such as Prezi, Pinterst, Google Drawing, We Video). The “media” analysis involves identifying author, audience, implications, and different possible interpretations.  Together, digital media literacy equips student to gain structures that they hold onto well beyond one course or teacher’s influence.

So, why don’t more researchers embrace digital media literacy as methodology?  The most likely reason is difficulty of access.  It’s hard to locate and get permissions from minor students (and their families).  And there’s the difficulty of physical access—- you have to be with that particular population of students throughout the entire unit of study, which usually involves a rotating schedule of meeting times.  And, honestly, students who are immersed in a research study are a bit unreliable.  They’re frequently absent, or their attentions are divided among social, emotional, physical, psychological, and cognitive places.  Their enthusiastic responses and engagement one day may be dampened another day by elusive exterior influences.

For those of your researchers who are considering an attempt at digital media literacy pedagogy, I say, Go for It!  Student reactions to media texts are quite thought-provoking.  And, when they take the next step to produce their own media messages, you as a researcher will see the authentic social and cultural impacts that disciplines like sports are making on today’s youth. The results you’ll find will shift the academic discourse with the capacity to look at cultural reproduction of norms, social shifts in ideology, and the pathways to tomorrow’s sociocultural climate.

Your impact on research could be really powerful stuff.

Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is the recipient of the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Grand Prize Award for Technology and Reading.  She teaches high school English and is an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College. If you’d like information for your school or non-profit organization about workshops in digital and media literacy and learning, contact Carolyn at c4tuna31@gmail.com.